Coal and global warming
Of the many environmental and public health risks associated with coal, the most serious in terms of its universal and potentially irreversible consequences is global warming. The scientific community has reached an overwhelming consensus that Earth’s climate is warming—with potentially devastating future impacts—and that human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are largely to blame.
Global warming impacts include seal level rise and coastal flooding; more frequent and intense heat waves; and widespread ecological damage, including forest death and species loss, among others.
Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of CO2 emissions in the US power sector, and accounted for 24 percent of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2016.
China, India, and many other industrialized nations rely on massive reserves of coal for power production. Despite taking important steps to improve its energy efficiency and invest in renewable sources of power, China has passed the United States in annual CO2 emissions, and could expand its coal production much further.
These trends underscore the need for the United States to invest in low-cost alternatives to coal and increase their availability internationally.